In an effort to expose diners to a range of craft beers, restaurants are hosting events in which four or five beers from a single brewery are matched with the same number of courses. Patrons leave feeling satisfied — often too much so.
To counteract that feeling of overdoing it, Somerville’s Foundry on Elm started offering a series of beer dinners with a lighter touch. For $20 a person (multicourse dinner typically costs $50 to $60), patrons can sample two courses — an appetizer and an entree or an entree and a dessert — along with two beers. “The dinners are for regular beer drinkers,” says Geoff Thompson, beer czar (that’s his official restaurant title) at the Davis Square brasserie. “You have an inherent value in beer over wine, but you can serve beer with good food, just like you’d serve wine.”
The dinners started with one of Thompson’s favorite brews, Allagash White, and will progress with similar beers throughout the summer. The fresh citrus of something like an Allagash is welcome in mild weather, while peppery notes stand up to and play off all kinds of food. “As it gets warmer you want brighter IPAs and wheat beers,” says Thompson.
He selects the beers, then lets the chefs think about the pairings. He gives them tasting notes, offering hints as to whether a hoppy beer might go better with a chicken dish rather than the catch of the day. The menu is actually based on the beers, not the other way around. If an appetizer doesn’t work with what Thompson has chosen to drink, guests get dessert.
These are not extravagant affairs, but rather an extension of a program Thompson says is already working. Foundry has 32 beers on tap, and the beer czar regularly meets with brewers to see what’s new and fresh. He says the competition between local breweries is a good thing for the restaurant.
One thing you won’t see at the dinners: barleywines or oak-aged beers. If you’ve ever been to a traditional beer dinner, you know that breweries like to bring out their big guns. But the price point, as well as the high-alcohol content, of some of those beers makes them prohibitive for a weeknight meal.
Foundry on Elm, 255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, 617-628-9999, www.foundryonelm.com. Beer dinner on June 18 will feature Goose Island Beer Co., on June 25 Port Brewing Co.Gary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com.